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Page 3 Profile: The garden gnome


How have garden gnomes made it into the news?

The Royal Horticultural Society has finally lifted the ban on gnomes at the Chelsea Flower show for its centenary year, with protesters at previous shows demanding equal rights for the mythical creatures.

Gnomes are regularly sneaked into the show and this year her Majesty will inspect around 150 figurines alongside the flowers.

Mythical creatures? Tell me more.

The gnome itself is a mythical creature in English folklore, but the figures themselves are not just a product of a 20th-century break from good taste. The first gnome was stocked in Dresden, Germany in 1841, but in the 1860s, German sculptor Phillip Griebel started moulding ceramic, pointy-hatted creatures as garden decorations, spreading around Europe with instant success. They are typically male, almost always have a long, white beard and are often seen in poses such as fishing, smoking a pipe or just taking a nap.

Are there any celebrity gnomes?

The David Beckham of garden gnomes is Lampy, the last survivor of a set of 21 gnomes imported into Britain by Sir Charles Isham in the 1840s. Hidden in the grounds of Sir Charles' Northamptonshire home, Lampy escaped a family clearout, and was insured for £1m in 1997.

Are these lovable ornaments under threat?

Owners of garden gnomes have had to contend with the act of "gnoming" for years. The reckless practice involves stealing various gnomes from gardens and in some cases releasing the figurines back "into the wild". There are also gnome liberation fronts in Italy and France, that seek to let gnomes return to their natural environment.